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Every now and then people ask whether it is appropriate to leave a (phd, postdoc, tenure-track...) position they have accepted for a better one that became available later, or in any case how to behave when multiple positions have incompatible deadlines. The last example is Swap Postdoc position . Other older examples are Is it OK to turn down a postdoc offer (contract not signed yet) after getting a better postdoc offer, Postdoc positions: turning down alternative offers safely and timely, Tenure-track offer with other applications in progress .

This would suggest to write a "canonical question" on the subject. On the other hand, I am not so sure that a general answer exists --- maybe all these questions have peculiarities that require them to be answered on an individual basis. What do you think about it?

(I am not asking this because I wish to write myself the canonical question and answer -- on the contrary, I don't think I am experienced enough to answer this.)

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I am of the opinion that reneging on an accepted PhD position, a grant, a postdoc position, and a tenure track is sufficiently different that merging them all into a single answer is not very useful. Yes, the answer to all of those questions is no, you should not, but the practical implications are, I think, different enough that the canonical answer will add little as it would need to address all of these different aspects to be of real value.

Another aspect is that we have actually answered virtually all permutations of this question already, so we should be able to close pretty much all of these questions in the future as a duplicate of one of the existing questions - so it's not that we save work by having a canonical question.

  • I agree. There is a standard protocol for reneging on a PhD position acceptance in the U.S. (According to an agreement most U.S. universities have signed onto, another PhD program can't accept you unless you have a letter from the first department releasing you from the commitment. And I don't know of any cases of departments refusing to write these letters.) This answer wouldn't apply to any other case. – Peter Shor Oct 30 '17 at 1:31
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Pondering my own answers to these types of question, I actually think there is a canonical version that exists.

Perhaps the canonical question would be something like:

Switching Positions After Accepting an Offer

I have currently accepted a position, however in between when I accepted the position and now I have gotten another offer that is more appealing for personal or professional reasons. Is it ethical to accept this new offer and leave the other position, and if so, how do I do so while minimizing any damage to my career?


Trying to keep it vague enough that it's widely applicable, while covering most cases.

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